Tag Archives: Amy Enser

Liberation of Seattle Jazz Quartet, Industrial Revelation

Liberation of Seattle Jazz Quartet, Industrial Revelation

If you mix listening to more jazz with a little Just Blaze, some trumpets, and a few psychedelics here and there.
BY     OCTOBER 12, 2015

industrial revelation lede

Douglas Martin uses the Force to eradicate fruit flies

There’s a reason why we tell you to #listentomorejazz. It’s a genre that doesn’t care much for nostalgia; it takes you in the moment like no other genre of music, primarily because so much of it is being arranged with free pockets open to improvisation. Occasionally it takes you to far off lands based in far off times or makes you see the wonder and history of your backyard. Seattle jazz quartet Industrial Revelation does both of those latter feats simultaneously; referencing both the mysticism of the fallen civilization referenced in the album title and the rich jazz tradition of the group’s home base.

But this ain’t your daddy’s Kenny G downtown alleyway wine bar jazz, or even your grandfather’s dusty record collection with Bumps Blackwell’s name written in fine print on the sleeve. Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri features a cornucopia of styles, from spoken-word-styled hip-hop (“Introduction: Mighty Nation”) to reimagined spaghetti-westerns (“I Jam 4U, My Love”) and rollicking folk-pop (“FunGirl”). There’s classic R&B like “First Dance,” urgent blowouts like “Man from Obibi,” and songs like “No Way Out But In,” which, given the right vocalist, sounds like it was produced by Just Blaze (on a goodly amount of hallucinogenic drugs).

Lately, some of the more innovative names in modern jazz have taken the path toward afro-futurism, and though Industrial Revelation are more classical when judged on that metric, it doesn’t mean they can’t reach astral peaks. “Exit From the Morass” contains a spacey build to a soaring climax; D’Vonne Lewis’ rolling drum fills congeal into a solid groove before building to a thunderous climax and release. “Wait. No. Sound.” splits open a shuffling groove and what’s left is an outpour of bright drones, followed by a mournful trumpet solo by Ahamefule J. Oulo and soothing keys from Josh Rawling.

Oulo’s trumpet features a variety of musical languages, able to switch from mournful to wild and blustery within the span of a few short bars (like in “Voice Memo: Night Love”). On “Old Man Soul,” the trumpet is lovelorn. On the dramatic “HYPED!,” it screams a battle cry. It commands the lead when it needs to and adds just a touch of atmosphere when it doesn’t. The same statement could be said for all of the band’s players; they let the song dictate its own pace, but know when switch gears and courses. “Ellison Ellington” is a pencil shaving over a minute long, but it throws down both the sort of gospel vamp you only hear in church when people are catching the holy ghost and a grungy, psychedelic bounce.

So many different styles are represented in Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri, but the foundation of it all is firmly planted in jazz. You can tell in how the upright bass plucks feels as percussive as the drums, how the trumpet can go from cotton-sheet smooth to as coarse as the back of your throat when you’ve taken a shot at the cheapest whiskey the gas station can offer. Those styles come in service to Industrial Revelation’s fast-and-loose sense of virtuosity and this particular double-album’s breadth of sprawl. Exploration is an ambitious feat in any realm but especially music; thankfully the players in Industrial Revelation have more than enough talent, knowledge, and gusto to traverse a startling amount of territory and never get lost along the way.

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Industrial Revelation Goes to New Orleans, Outer Space and a Medieval West African Kingdom

Industrial Revelation Goes to New Orleans, Outer Space and a Medieval West African Kingdom

‘Liberation and the Kingdom of Nri’ elevates the band’s lofty trajectory even higher.

Acid jazz lurches down the hallway of the Seamonster Lounge. The band—a Bellingham outfit called Celestial Navigation—plays in the far corner of the club, and its sound is like a rhino smashing through a series of Pollock paintings. A few minutes pass and D’Vonne Lewis, drummer and founder of Seattle avant-jazz band Industrial Revelation, pops through the front door.

Lewis’ unique speaking voice sticks in the mind after hearing only a few words. It’s kind, imbued with wisdom, and playful. He sits with a beer and we start to talk about his group, now in its 10th year, and its new record, a 20-track double album called Liberation and the Kingdom of Nri.

“There’s some cuts on there, man,” he says. No doubt. Industrial Revelation features four of the city’s most accomplished and adept musicians. Along with Lewis, who comes from a family of Seattle jazz players, there’s double bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, keyboardist Josh Rawlings, and trumpeter Ahamefule J. Oluo. Among them, they’ve played with Macklemore, Allen Stone, Hey Marseilles, Meklit Hadero, and countless others from varying musical worlds—rock to rap to classical. In fact, Oluo recently released a punk-rock record under the name The Honorable Chief, and it was his family’s Nigerian heritage that influenced the title of the new IR project.

Historically, the Kingdom of Nri is known as a peaceful, medieval West African state whose leader used no military force over his people. “They were just about acceptance and love,” Lewis explains. “We liked this idea, especially paired with the idea of liberation, which is also the name of a song I wrote for the record.”

“Liberation” is an epic, all-out New Orleans carnival. Its uproarious feeling is complimented by tracks like “I Jam 4U, My Love,” a slower build with an equal sense of height and breadth.

To release the new album, IR worked with Sam Anderson of Hey Marseilles and Pearl Jam guitar tech Josh Evans, both of whom helped during the mixing process. The recordings took place in several locations around Washington, including the famed Robert Lang Studio with engineer Homero Gonzalez. Nri is a more polished production than their last album, Oak Head; it may in fact be the starting point of a new, elevated trajectory for the group, which has already received a great deal of local acclaim.

No matter what happens in terms of success, Lewis says the members of IR wish to remain loyal to their hometown, though traveling in support of the record and scheduling a November tour is on the forefront of their minds. “I love living in Seattle,” Lewis smiles. “We all have expressed that if Industrial takes off in some way—and we don’t know what ‘take off’ means, exactly—but we’re all here in Seattle and that’s good for the city.”

This sentiment makes sense: The band’s essence is soaked in loyalty. It’s their secret weapon as writers and entertainers—the quality you notice first when seeing them perform and the thing most acutely remembered when the gig is done. They’re brothers on- and offstage, pushing one another to get to that next place, one step higher in the musical climb, to find the most powerful phrase to make each other go, “WHOOAAHH!” —a perfectly timed cymbal crash, the deep pluck of an open bass string, a screeching melody from horn or keyboard.

The record’s first single, “Amelia,” is named after Amelia Bonow, a veteran service-industry worker and co-founder of the viral #ShoutYourAbortion movement with Oluo’s wife, writer Lindy West. It’s a fresh breeze of a track that turns celestial and space-aged in its break. The song maintains an underlying steadiness, though, with rock-solid, ’90s hip-hop bass from the track’s writer, Flory-Barnes.

“I debated whether to call the song ‘Service Industry Crush’ or ‘Amelia,’ ” he grins. “On the one hand, it’s describing that feeling when you go into a bar or cafe and you see someone special, and on the other hand there’s meeting Amelia and getting to know her.”

The song’s mood and title speaks to the group’s conscientious core and the relationships they’ve built with Seattle folks of all backgrounds. “Relationships over time get stronger, bonds grow,” explains Lewis. “We are always trying to keep that machine oiled. With the band, we’re all so busy day-to-day, but we make time to hang even if we can’t play or rehearse. I feel like we’ve done that more so the past few years—we know our strengths and weaknesses. We know what works.”

This intimate knowledge is what allows the four to effortlessly transition between genres of sound, to build a crashing crescendo from a lighthearted piano riff. To turn a lark into a thunderous 22-minute jam complete with staccato drum solos, lightning trumpet strikes, and quaking bass riffs that sonically recall laughter, solidarity, and surprise.

“We’re constantly putting out our best and still trying to get better and better,” Lewis admits. “It’s almost overwhelming the love we get. But we want to try and reciprocate that—somehow. To just try and keep it going as best we can.”

Industrial Revelation Album Release. Frye Art Museum, Free, All Ages. 7 p.m., Fri., Oct. 9.

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